HARTFORD, Conn. (AP)—Connecticut center Hasheem Thabeet didn’t miss a shot all night. Neither did Huskies forward Jeff Adrien.
Their inside dominance and UConn’s defensive pressure allowed the 14th-ranked Huskies to overcome a 3-point barrage from Pepperdine and pull away for an 86-66 victory Wednesday night.
Thabeet hit seven shots and finished with 15 points and seven rebounds, while Adrien was 6-of-6 and had 14 points and seven rebounds.
UConn (10-0) outrebounded Pepperdine 48-28 and shot just under 51 percent from the field. The Huskies had 34 second-chance points, while limiting Pepperdine to 12.
“We knew the buckets were going to be there for us,” Adrien said. “We were just in there finishing.”
The Waves (3-10) stayed outside for much of the game, living and dying with the 3-point shot.
And in the first half, Pepperdine was very much alive, hitting eight of 15 from behind the arc. They were led by Tomas Pranciliauskas, who was 4-of-5 on 3s in scoring 14 of his 22 points in the opening 20 minutes.
“The only chance I thought we had tonight coming into this game was to try to make UConn shoot about 25 3s, and I wanted to get about 40 3s up,” first-year Pepperdine coach Vance Walberg said. “We’re not the best inside. We’re not very big, we’re not very strong, and when we do get it (inside), it’s hard for us to finish.”
Kingsley Costain had 14 points for Pepperdine and Chase Griffin added 12.
Connecticut scored the first eight points of the game, and the Huskies looked as though they were going to run Pepperdine out of the Hartford Civic Center.
Several times UConn tried to pull away, leading by as many as 12 points, but Pepperdine would shoot its way back into the game.
Griffin hit a 3-pointer to cut Pepperdine’s halftime deficit to 40-36.
A.J. Price led UConn with 17 points, and Doug Wiggins came off the bench to get 16, sparking the Huskies with 11 in the second half.
“We understood that we had to play them much tougher in the second half or nothing would change,” Price said. “We stepped the tempo up and the pressure and got this game where we wanted it to go.”
The Waves were just 3-of-13 from 3-point range in the second half, and shot 36 percent from the field overall in the final 20 minutes.
Pepperdine shot 40.4 percent for the game, becoming the first team to shoot over 40 percent against UConn this season.
“We got tested,” said coach Jim Calhoun, whose Huskies had won their previous nine games by an average of 27 points. “We took a deep breath, took a little hit, came back and got the thing up to 20.”
UConn was hurt by 18 turnovers, seven by Price, their sophomore point guard.
But Pepperdine got into foul trouble in the second half as the Huskies got the ball down low. UConn hit 19 of 28 free throws and Pepperdine had 24 fouls to UConn’s 14.
The victory was Calhoun’s 495th at UConn, and 743rd overall.
Connecticut played it’s 10th consecutive game at home to open the season, and has one more next week against Coppin State before going on the road for its Big East opener, at West Virginia on Dec. 30.
“We’re not going to be blowing people out by 40 points in the Big East,” Wiggins said. “It’s going to be tough in the Big East, and this was a good test for us.”
The Waves have lost seven straight against ranked teams, with their last win coming against then-No. 20 Wisconsin on Nov. 27, 2004. They lost 99-91 at No. 17 Washington on Nov. 12.
Pepperdine had been averaging over 82 points a game, but had been giving up over 85.